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Old 8th October 2014, 16:30   #1
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Default Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

Have witnessed this for the first time in the Indian car scene. And, in the last quarter, THRICE!

From our Honda Mobilio Review:

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
In our press vehicles, the touchscreen system had serious issues with the display & reflection levels. Honda said they're going to offer the Amaze's simple head-unit instead. Press cars were kitted with an aftermarket-feeling touchscreen headunit. It suffered too many bugs: sluggish to operate, excessive glare making the screen unreadable and more. Honda's ditched this HU:
From our Ciaz review. Another reviewer told me of the Ciaz' screen going completely dead! It came back up only after restarting the car:

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Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
7" touchscreen audio system. Not available yet, until some bugs are sorted. We found its response times to be slow:
My own experience with the Ciaz:

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
However, ask the touchscreen to multi-task and it would go bonkers. For instance, while streaming music, if I received a call, about 10% of the time, the screen would go dead or get stuck in a start / stop loop (see video below). Similarly, while listening to music, if I engaged reverse gear (and the touchscreen became the reversing camera's display), about 10% of the time, it would continually switch on & off. The only solution was to wait for a couple of minutes and hope that things got back to normal. Check this video I shot of the touchscreen acting up. I experienced this several times a day. Additionally, I found the touchscreen's response times to be incredibly sluggish!

From our Zest review:

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Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
The infotainment system has a few bugs.....Once, while we were adjusting the music volume, an SMS came in and caused all the info in the central part of the screen to disappear. Regardless of what we tried doing to restore things, it only returned back to its usual self after a long shut-down of the car.
Maruti, Honda & Tata are extremely professional organisations that do thorough preparation before launching a new car. Yet, they suffered the embarrassment of buggy, sluggish touchscreen ICE at the media drives. So severe was the problem with the Mobilio's touchscreen that it was withdrawn from the launch at the last minute!!

Maruti & its dealers still don't have a clue when the Z+ variants of the Ciaz (with the touchscreen ICE) will be launched. Lets not forget that Maruti & Honda are hallmarks of reliability who put in a lot of hard work in making their cars durable. I find it surprising that both ended up with the agony of delaying the launch of their touchscreen ICE variants. It's unprecedented!

Question: Is there a dearth of OEM suppliers for reliable touchscreen head-units in India? If not, there's a business opportunity right there.

Or did Maruti, Honda & Tata simply pick the wrong guy? We recently tested the Scorpio and its touchscreen ICE worked like a charm. No such problems. Also, I'm using a Pioneer touchscreen head-unit in my Civic since 4 years and it's not buggy either.

Last edited by GTO : 26th March 2015 at 21:25. Reason: Adding my own experience with the Ciaz
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Old 8th October 2014, 16:55   #2
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

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Or did Maruti, Honda & Tata simply pick the wrong guy? We recently tested the Scorpio and its touchscreen ICE worked like a charm. No such problems. Also, I'm using a Pioneer touchscreen head-unit in my Civic since 4 years and it's not buggy either.
I'd go with the last paragraph, my own experience with Pioneer has been flawless but JVC wasn't as fluid.


The Ford Endeavour, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and the Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton use Kenwood. For the XUV 5OO and Scorpio, Mahindra uses Nippon. IIRC Volkswagen used Nippon for the Vento IPL Edition and those units were priced at half of the standard VW HUs (Bosch/ Hella). The Kenwood ones are trouble-free but the Nippon used in the XUV 5OO had its share of issues during the initial months post launch.

I feel Maruti / Honda might have gotten a new OEM on board and someone would have tried to save a few bucks.

Last edited by maglev : 8th October 2014 at 16:57.
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Old 8th October 2014, 17:19   #3
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

For me, it is is no surprise that these touch screens offerings are buggy. This is quite complex software project and it requires huge resources to deal with it. These three touch screens must not have gone through proper QA cycle and/or having inefficient R&D & QA team. It requires lots of experience, monitoring, testing, re-testing for making such kind of product.

There are 100s of startups company working on this area and if I am not wrong this product belongs to some of the startup companies. Atleast, in case of Ciaz I have information through internet that Ciaz touchscreen have been made by one small company based in Hyderabad, Bangalore & US.

Unlike mobile, we do not have reliable opensource software yet for these IVI (In Vehicle Infotainment). The work is going on, but not matured enough for productization. In mobile, we have Android & much of these kind of performance & QA work being handled by google opensource team. That is why all small vendors like Karbon, Lava, Micromax releases phone every now and then.

No doubt, why Pioneer, Kenwood etc. mastered in this IVI field due to their huge experience in this field. maglev just quoted rightly that "Someone would have tried to save a few bucks" for company to gain browny points. Ultimately the consumer who will suffer.

Last edited by anujmishra : 8th October 2014 at 17:21.
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Old 8th October 2014, 17:27   #4
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Question: Is there a dearth of OEM suppliers for reliable touchscreen head-units in India? If not, there's a business opportunity right there. Or did Maruti, Honda & Tata simply pick the wrong guy?
Very nice point and discussion!

I find that in-car electronics have an inevitable feel of having been built by a team who's core competency is electronics, and not software. That would explain why you get great functionality & usability even in quite cheap cell phones, but ICE equipment struggles to deliver the same level of end-user experience & performance. And don't get me started on the dot-matrix quality screens!

I also suspect - as maglev has pointed out - that cost pressures have forced compromises.
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Old 8th October 2014, 17:29   #5
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

I'm inclined to think that the manufacturers tried to save some money. In this digital age where a 7 inch tablet whose thickness is less than a cm can do loads of things more than a touch screen head unit. Yet they remain bulky and laggy. A capacitive touch screen is not exactly rocket science. Even if kenwood and pioneer has good head units there's loads left to improve on all fronts. The mahindra e2o head unit was impressive if not revolutionary. That is the direction of evolution instead it's shocking to see manufacturers pull back models from market because they can't get a touch screen in the head unit work. I can't help but wonder why most head unit manufacturers (except cheap Chinese ones) stay away from android platform. Food for thought perhaps.

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Old 8th October 2014, 17:38   #6
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

Definitely a valid observation

I think the conventional HU manufacturer like Kenwood, Nippon and others have been very much relying on Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) for the head units for years. As we know they are very robust and largely failproof. There are lesser interrupts to handle with non-touchscreen interfaces too. But with latest smartphone revolutions, every other manufacturer is trying to compete with their own head units to avoid getting aged. What I mean by this is, with modern smartphones in the car, all you need is good speakers and mic from the car's infotainment unit! So to stay relevant in the market, the traditional HU manufacturers must use the advanced and competitive HUs. That brings them to implementing the modern phone OS onto the HUs. Many of the current generation HUs use Windows Mobile 6.5 or Android variety of the OS in their units. When Google and Apple themselves cannot fix the issues in their own OS gracefully, it's least expected for the HU manufacturers. And hence the bugs!

Above all, consider small mobile software shops taking open source mobile OS and making custom versions for these HUs! You can imagine corners getting cut in the process and the time one needs to stabilise the product is drastically reduced. Keeping up with the modern OS versions is another herculean task - every 6-9 months there is new iOS and Android version

So there is really a dearth of quality HU - OS manufacturers today! I use Caska HU in my car and when I did my investigation, found it to have Windows Mobile 6.5 custom version running on it. Thats super old OS by today's standards. Has some bugs like losing radio signal sometimes or not starting the map when needed or acquiring the GPS fix even when the vehicle is stationary. But like majority softwares, if I restart, it comes back to life! Obviously the support from microsoft to update the OS issues is no more and hence this unit will live with these issues for its life! There is a newer version Caska sells with android OS. And of course when we have 4.4.4 (awaiting L) in market, they are still on some older 3.x/4.x version with hell lot of bugs! So the situation isn't any prettier there too.

The only way I find to solve this issue is if significant investment happens from the HU manufacturers and auto manufacturers on building the stable and reliable OS to be used in HUs. Know for a fact that premier auto manufacturer have invested heavily on this and so the situation should change soon. And while this is happening, HUs should ideally work on an OS architecture that allows them to interface with modern phone OSes than using them completely as base. There are many proven kernels and RTOSs they can easily use and make this a better offering that could prove their greatest strength apart from automobile itself.

Last edited by abirnale : 8th October 2014 at 17:44.
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Old 8th October 2014, 17:42   #7
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

In addition to software , i think the hardware is also not complementing the features that are being pushed on to these systems.

Case point being if you look at the Chinese providers who offer wince and android based systems the processors and memory being offered is of 10 year old tech.

Hopefully with android auto, Here (Nokia) and Apple Auto offerings things should pickup soon. I think premium OEM's offerings from Honda, Merc and BMW's will have Apple and OEM's like Pioneer, Kenwood and Nippon might pick Android.

I actually think it could be a great business expansion place for companies like Micromax, and others to dip into this space
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Old 8th October 2014, 18:20   #8
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

"Cheap" is never the same as "Good". I guess part sourcing in the India division of auto makers are perpetually going for "cheap". This is not limited to ICE, and extends to plastics, fabrics, noise damping, ... Probably their only KRA is cost reduction to minimize BOM (Bill of Materials of the car) cost. Why else would they choose white-branded ICE equipment which are not mature enough for *any* market? Could be from any country (China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia ...), so I wouldn't say "white-branded Made in China". Caska, Witson, Dynavin, (MapMyIndia), ... Sure, they work, but they remind one of the famous line about software engineers:
"Q: How many SEs does it take to change the light bulb?
A: What? The light bulb works fine on my system?"
:\

There is a slew of such products even in after-market, some better than others - but in the same category. They can't match reliability nor quality nor performance nor functionality of established makes like Pioneer, Kenwood, JVC/Clarion, Blaupunkt etc. The Indian divisions of all car makers seem to be hell bent upon mimicking what the other country divisions do - offer integrated ICE though they could have perhaps got away by offering a choice (OE ICE is not a choice, it is part of the package - take it or leave it).

They are completely ignoring the fact that quality of OE ICE is compromised by selecting L1 (to use a sourcing / tendering term) as opposed to T1. Suzuki won't dare do that in Europe if they want to sell their cars. Honda wouldn't do that. Hyundai wouldn't do that. So why India should have this abomination? A car buyer wanting the whole jing bang package can afford to pay 15K extra (if the BOM cost goes up by 3K; that is typically the cost difference between an L1 and a T1 vendor usually). BUT, do you think the buyer will keep quiet after getting an inferior product which works intermittently?

The main problem is, they DO keep quiet! Most have the financial wherewithall to throw out the crappy OE ICE and get a Pioneer, Kenwood or JVC to replace it. So what happened in this deal? Money went down the drain - for the car manufacturer and definitely for the buyer.

There is a fundamental flaw in the thinking of the new breed of ICE pretenders: that a product can be designed with
a. limited investment in development, and
b. by assuming that OS platforms like Android, Tizen, Linux etc. are an acceptable shortcut to creating a product with limited investment

Many companies have unsuccessfully tried this for the last 15 years, and the market is yet to see a PRODUCT. An Infotainment system cannot be treated like a Tablet or a Laptop - the design rules are completely different. The end-use operating environment, whether the geeks like it or not, imposes Use Cases that the other portable devices will never undergo. For that, one makes a seamless PRODUCT, not a box that can *run anything*, and is so flexible that it can't function straight. For that, one invests millions in design and testing. Buying a ready-made board and running some software doesn't make a PRODUCT.

And yet, we don't see sensibility in vendor and product selection in India. The responsibility of making it work is very easily passed off to the vendor - just put the monkey on their shoulder. This is just another example of how we lack the sense of quality in the industry, unless someone cracks the whip. So who will crack the whip?

Last edited by DerAlte : 8th October 2014 at 18:23.
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Old 8th October 2014, 21:56   #9
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

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.......So who will crack the whip?
Excellent points there. While I agree it will ultimately fall to the manufacturer to ensure they're either getting top-notch equipment (if outsourced) or spending money/effort with their design/supply partners (if developing in-house or collaborating) to come up with ICE solutions that work with their products, we also need to blame the demand side of the equation.

We need a paradigm shift in buyer mentality, cheap and VFM are not the same thing and good quality will always cost something extra. There was an excellent post by an i20 owner in the initial ownership thread (my apologies I can't find it right now) where he systematically explained how most of the 'features' are either half-baked or downright unusable in practicality terms.
I'd rather have a car with less features that work seamlessly, than a 'loaded' car whose features are either useless or unreliable.

Manufacturers would pay attention to quality if they're mandated to do so, either by regulation or the most effective way the market knows, consumer demand. Unfortunately, India is a land of non-existent regulation and a majority consumer base that equates cheap to VFM.
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Old 8th October 2014, 23:06   #10
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

Inside information -> Bosch India is responsible for buggy software in Ciaz's infotainment system. My source (brother's friend, working at Bosch) talked about it a couple of months back - way before Ciaz was released.

If I know about this, I'm pretty sure lots of people at Maruti too know about Ciaz's infotainment system bugs. And they still launched the vehicle without fixing it. Looks like they wanted to bring the Ciaz to the market as soon as possible.
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Old 8th October 2014, 23:30   #11
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

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Originally Posted by DerAlte View Post
There is a fundamental flaw in the thinking of the new breed of ICE pretenders: that a product can be designed with
a. limited investment in development, and
b. by assuming that OS platforms like Android, Tizen, Linux etc. are an acceptable shortcut to creating a product with limited investment

Many companies have unsuccessfully tried this for the last 15 years, and the market is yet to see a PRODUCT.
Limited investment is a fundamental flaw, using Linux / Android is not.

Two examples here:

1. Tesla (Linux)
Tesla uses Linux (Ubuntu) for Infotainment system. It has pretty good usability. Quotes from its CTO later in this post.

2. Android Auto
This has Google's backing and thus
A. development + validation resources.
B. Buy-in from all major car manufacturers (list in link below)


http://www.android.com/auto/



Tesla's CTO on Linux:
Quote:
IDGNS: Tell me about the software in the car.JBS: We wrote most of the software in the car ourselves. All of the screens you see were programmed here, designed here, and we have a whole team of software engineers upstairs implementing that and making it a reality. We are using an operating system that is a version of something called Linux. That is open source, very robust standard, for the display and entertainment.
http://www.pcworld.com/article/26088...car_linux.html

Last edited by NetfreakBombay : 8th October 2014 at 23:43.
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Old 9th October 2014, 00:12   #12
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

I would consider these teething troubles of something being done for probably the first time in these cars. Look at the XUV system earlier, and now. There are still bugs and issues in that, but they are being systematically removed.

As long as the manufacturer listens to feedback, and continues to act upon it, such systems should end up working fine for normal use in the next year - for software related issues.

If there is compromise in assembly quality or touchscreen quality itself, a replacement would be the only solution.
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Old 9th October 2014, 00:17   #13
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

Mods may delete my post if they find it irrelevant but I always wonder why are manufacturers forcing their music systems upon us especially such ones where it's really a big compromise. I for one don't want a music system even on the top end as I feel I can get an awesome setup in 50-60k than be forced to live with something that is there for the sake of being premium but doesn't function very well.

I guess this current problem will stay till a point where we start getting the apple and android systems on mass market cars.

P.S. I also have pioneer touchscreen head unit on both my vehicles which touchwood so far have worked pretty well!
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Old 9th October 2014, 05:37   #14
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

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Originally Posted by miharbe View Post
Mods may delete my post if they find it irrelevant but I always wonder why are manufacturers forcing their music systems upon us
Very well said mate. The inbuilt audio systems offered in our cars is most of the times worthless. There are numerous quality issues not only with the head units but also the quality of the speakers is inferior.
Worst is the case when all of us are threatened about warranty getting obsolete by all these manufactures when we plan to upgrade by investing more. Some of them restrict our preference of playing audio by eliminating CD drives , and IMO a good quality CD is still the best source of audio compared to the new age aux cables & USB drives.
As they are already charging a premium for this so called value add they better improve the quality or ideally offer this equipment as optional to the customers , which I guess will not happen as they may be spending just a quarter of what they eventually charge us.

cheers,
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Old 9th October 2014, 06:27   #15
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Default Re: Dearth of OEM Touchscreen Head-unit vendors in India?

I think no company is interested in giving buggy touch screen units, neither are the vendors.
The vendor may have a great product which works flawless. The manufacturer most probably is not amused with the price of this great product. The vendor tinkers about this great product for reducing the cost and we end up with non responsive/buggy systems.

I think,that is the only reason, because aftermarket units work without any fuss.

I want to understand the scenario with the likes of SKODA, VW, BMW, MB and AUDI. They don't have buggy touch screen units, I suppose.
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